ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH: NON-NEGOTIABLE. In the comments, New Orleans Ladder said "it is never a good idea for the Army to lie to the American people on American soil with American Tax-paid computers." I couldn't agree more! In my opinion, this is a must - no discussion! Also in the comments, Ms. Rosenthall (posting as WateryHill) wrote in response to a comment by Adam S., "I am just an American citizen, but I do not understand why you say for the Army to fabricate information and call it facts, that the Army is telling 'its side of the story.'" If what was being posted was, in fact, fabricated information, then the person posting it is wrong and is doing more harm than good for their cause and for the Army. Since the idea of defensive blogging is to correct or complete a story then the information a Soldier leaves on anothers blog must be completely accurate. I've written a little about this in the past when discussing credibility and how Soldier's blogging fits in the fundamentals of information.
BE HONEST ABOUT WHO YOU ARE. Also in the comments, Ms. Rosenthall wrote "The commenter 'stevonawlins' is on record saying he does not work for the Corps, meanwhile his comment originated from Corps Headquarters in New Orleans." There appears to be a disconnect in this case - either his claim or the IP address is false. I won't hypothesize here about which it is, because the more important point is that if you are a government employee - Soldier or civilian - and you are posting information about something your organization is involved in, then you owe it to the people to be honest about who you are. This is one of the rules that are followed in CENTCOM's defensive blogging exploits - and it is appreciated and respected by the authors of the blogs being commented on by CENTCOM's team. This is also what I've done when leaving comments on others blogs, and what Ms. Rosenthall did when leaving comments on this blog. Of course, there may be some security risks that are being taken by exposing your identity on-line, but, as Mike's 25 axioms for blogging points out, there are ways to protect yourself by carefully choosing what you write about.
ENGAGE THE ISSUES, NOT THE PEOPLE. Some people may like the personal bashing that is not uncommon in the blogosphere, but for professional discussions it should remain professional. And one very common rule for professional debate is to engage the issues, not the people. For example, New Orleans Ladder wrote in the comments, "blog etiquette dictates a civil response to a civil question from a post's subject." He's right; he asked me to address the issue raised by Ms. Rosenthall without attacking me. When one side decides to begin bashing the other, the discussion can quickly degenerate into something that is completely useless. By engaging the issues real discussion occurs and, hopefully, solutions are found. As Soldiers in the blogosphere, much like when we're visiting with friends or family or walking around town, we leave perceptions about us as individuals and people often generalize about all Soldiers from those perceptions that we create. We must take advantage of the opportunity for people to see that we are professionals - just as they can see in the accomplishment of the missions we are assigned. This may be a bit of a challenge, especially if you choose to leave comments on a website that is clearly anti-military or has engaged in hateful rhetoric, but we must always remain professional, even when we disagree with someone's ideas or opinions.
These three TTPs should be simple for us to follow. I'm interested to hear from those of you that may have engaged in a defensive blogging mission. Share your experiences in the comments to this post. Thanks!
P.S. for a great example of effective defensive blogging, take the time to read the comments to my original post on this subject. Ms. Rosenthall and others were effective at ensuring I had the complete and correct story, they were primarily professional in tone, and they were clearly passionate about the subject. It's just one more example of the power of back-and-forth that can occur in this new media.